Served 10 years
August 5, 1925 to October 1, 1935
By 11:15 p.m. on Tuesday, September 24, 1935, Motorcycle Patrolman Howard E. Beitman, 565 Dixmyth Avenue, and his partner Clifford Rhein had finished their shift and were on their way home when tragically, Patrolman Beitman was thrown from his Harley-Davidson as a car hit the left rear wheel of his motorcycle at Schiller and Hughes Streets. Patrolman Beitman, who was described by Major Charles S. Wolsefer, head of the Traffic Bureau, as “one of the best officers in the safety patrol,” landed on his head and suffered a skull fracture.
Patrolman Rhein, who had been riding a short distance ahead of Patrolman Beitman, reported that when he heard the crash, he noted that the striking vehicle was on the wrong side of the street.
The driver of the other vehicle, a Nash sedan, was Rudolph Gross, 210 East Liberty Street. He was initially arrested for reckless driving and arraigned in Police Court the following day. At this proceeding he was held under $1000 bond and scheduled for a hearing on October 1.
Beitman was taken to General Hospital where he remained unconscious until he died on October 1, 1935.
Once the accident was classified as a fatality, Detective Sergeant George Ebbers and Detectives Andrew Beard and Fred Seebohm arrested Gross again on the more serious manslaughter charge according to a Cincinnati Enquirer accounting the following morning. Patrolman Clifford Rhein signed the warrant.
On the day Patrolman Beitman died, Municipal Judge Otis R. Hess continued Gross’ trial until October 8 and allowed him to go free on bond.
When the case came to trial on the appointed day, Hess referred it to the Grand Jury. Nearly four months later, on February 14, 1936, the Grand Jury ignored the manslaughter charge, according to Hamilton County Common Pleas records. All along there had been conflicting reports as to which driver – Patrolman Beitman or Rudolph Gross – had the right-of-way on the night of the accident. The accident occurred at the northwest corner of Schiller and Hughes Streets, according to the Patrolman Beitman’s Injury Report, dated September 25, 1935. In the same report, we read that Gross had been driving north on Hughes Street while Patrolman Beitman’s motorcycle had been traveling west on Schiller at the time of the accident.
Patrolman Howard E. Beitman had been the second Station X Motorcycle Squad member to be killed in the line of duty during 1935. Just seven months earlier, Patrolman Jessie Roy Hicks had been killed while pursuing a speeding auto on West Eighth Street during the early morning hours of February 25.
Motorcycles had been in use by the Cincinnati Police Department for almost a quarter century the year that Patrolmen Hicks and Beitman lost their lives.
In 1910, Chief William H. Jackson asked the City for funding for both “auto-patrols and motorcycles” so that these might be placed in police Districts 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10.
A year later, two motorcycles were purchased and placed in commission. These were used to regulate traffic in Districts 7 and 8.
In the 1913, Annual Report of City Departments (dated December 20, 1913) we read from the Office of the Director of Public Safety, “Twelve motorcycles were added to take care of the outskirts and to answer emergency calls from substations.” The sub-stations scheduled to get them were Saylor Park, College Hill, Carthage, Oakley, Pleasant Ridge, Madisonville, California, Mt. Washington and Hyde Park.
Further, “These motorcycles are used by patrolmen in responding to calls for assistance from citizens. At each station a patrolman is always on duty, and when a call for police comes it is his duty to mount the motorcycle and respond at once. After attending the business necessitated by the call, the patrolman immediately returns to his station.”
Through the 1930s, motorcycles continued to be an important part of the Safety Patrol of the Police Division. We read in The Cincinnati Enquirer on March 24, 1932 that bids had just been opened for 20 police motorcycles. Further, each was to be equipped with a radio receiver and a sidecar. Estimated cost of these completely equipped motorcycles: $9,315.
Back then, the Police Department stressed safety to all of its members just as it continues to do today. Because of the special hazards that the Motorcycle Squad faced, the Department constantly endeavored to educate those men.
We read in The Cincinnati Enquirer on April 15, 1932 that, “all motorcycle policemen will go to school.” During these weekly sessions the officers studied safety education, accident prevention and investigation. They were instructed in criminal investigations pertaining to auto crimes and also taught proper court procedures, including giving good testimony. The school in 1932 was headed by Major Gustav Lorenz, who headed the Department’s Bureau of Personnel.
Tragically, motorcycle patrolmen continued to die in the line of duty. Since Greater Cincinnati area law enforcement had begun using motorcycles in the 1920s, eleven officers died on the job.
These victims are: Emery Farmer, Fairfield Township, 1922; David Rogers, Covington, 1923; Arthur Seaman, North College Hill, 1923; J. Roy Hicks, Cincinnati, 1935; Howard Beitman, Cincinnati, 1935; Harry Rose, Covington, 1938; Robert Leigh, Cincinnati, 1940; John Neal, Cincinnati, 1944; Willard Santel, Reading, 1945; John Hughes, Cincinnati; 1948; and Lewis Hall, Cincinnati, 1948.
Eventually, according to an accounting in the Cincinnati Post on August 16, 1944, the Cincinnati Police Department decided to abandon the use of two-wheel motorcycles and replace them with Scout Cars. The line-of-duty death of yet another motorcycle patrolman that year of John W. Neal influenced Chief Weatherly to make this recommendation to then Safety Director Gordon Scherer, who immediately gave his approval.
Patrolman Howard E. Beitman left a wife, Henrietta. He was buried in Section A, Lot 1861, Spring Grove Cemetery, on October 4, 1935 at 3 p.m.
Henrietta died on January 6, 1978.
If you have information, artifacts, archives, or images regarding this officer or incident, please contact the Greater Cincinnati Police Musem at Director@police-museum.org.
This narrative was revised September 26 , 2017 by Cincinnati Police Dispatcher Karen R. Arbogast (Retired), Greater Cincinnati Police Museum Researcher, with research assistance from Cincinnati Police Lieutenant Stephen R. Kramer (Retired), Greater Cincinnati Police Historical Society President. All rights are reserved to them and the Greater Cincinnati Police Historical Society.